A Pennsylvania House committee plans a vote on a transportation funding bill early this week but Senate Republicans say they aren’t prepared to tackle Governor Rendell’s "pet issue" until next year.
The House Appropriations Committee is set to vote on a bill increasing driver's license fees, gas taxes, and imposing a profits levy on oil companies. Johnna Pro, the spokeswoman for Democratic sponsor Dwight Evans, says the license fees would then increase annually with inflation, up to 1.5 percent.
"Some of those fees haven’t been raised since 1977. I would challenge anybody to find any product or any fee that hasn’t been raised since 1977."
In addition to bringing in new transportation revenue, the measure would spur public-private partnerships for roadways, encourage the merger of transportation authorities, and implement other reforms.
Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson agrees transportation funding is a critical issue, but says there isn’t enough time to pass a comprehensive measure this year.
He says caucus leaders want to wait until after the fall’s election.
"There is a sense that with the election so close, and with this being such a major issue, that it’s not something that’s appropriate for a lame duck governor to push through on his way out the door."
Rendell and other Democrats warn lawmakers will stall next year’s road construction schedule if they don’t approve new funding as soon as possible.
Arneson argues PennDOT still has billions of dollars to work with, even without a new revenue measure. However, mass transit agencies are already planning service cuts, layoffs and fare hikes in January without a transportation funding measure.